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Canada 2005
Directed by
Peter Raymont
90 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Shake Hands With The Devil: The Journey of Romeo Dallaire

Roméo Dallaire was the Canadian lieutenant-general who had the misfortune to head the United Nations' notoriously negligent peacekeeping efforts during the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Believing it, his first overseas command, to be a career high he rapidly found himself in a horrific situation that he could do nothing to prevent as 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were methodically slaughtered during a 3 month rampage by militant Hutus. Shattered by the experience, Dallaire eventually wrote a book about his experience, the title of which gives the film its name.

The film commences in 2004, as Dallaire returns to Rwanda on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the genocide. Dallaire's story is the centre of the film, director Raymont capturing his emotional edginess without in any way exploiting his vulnerabilities. Although not eloquent, Dallaire is candid about his experience, whilst the very nature of the material, which includes some extremely graphic footage of executions and their aftermath, says what he is unwilling or unable to.

Whilst acknowledging the focus on Dallaire's story some more attention to the socio-political context to it would have been useful. Beyond a long-standing tribal hostility, there is no real explanation of the reasons for the Tutsi's hatred of the Hutus, who the government were and who the rebel army were rebelling against.

Nevertheless Shake Hands With The Devil is a remarkable story, a window on the darkness of the human soul (Dallaire takes the metaphor of "the devil" literally) and the struggle of one individual to come to terms with it.




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